Find out how REA Group implemented LeanKit to support its transition to an agile service model, providing a foundation for flexibility and transparency.
REA Group Limited operates Australia’s No.1 residential and commercial property websites, and other property sites across Europe, China and Hong Kong.
Headquartered in Melbourne, Australia and employs more than 900 people worldwide.
Operates 13 property websites around the world, with most of the sites ranked first in their respective market.
A Top 100 Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) company currently valued at 6.78 billion
We interviewed Damian Fasciani, Technology Services Manager at REA Group, to understand how LeanKit is helping his team implement agile and lean practices, and how the use of LeanKit is spreading throughout the entire organization.
Tell us about your team.
The team is made up of six Cloud Engineers and eight Technology Consultants. We’re responsible for providing both engineering and support services for the business.
How do you balance both areas of responsibility?
We juggle day-to-day operational support with larger engineering projects, which are on a timeline. It can be difficult to meet our delivery dates when the team is also managing an unpredictable number of incoming support tickets. That’s what prompted us to take a fresh look at how we structure and prioritize our work.
What changes to your approach did you make?
We decided to adopt agile and lean practices in late 2010. We started by holding daily standup meetings and visualizing our work on a physical card wall. This helped with articulating and understanding the business value of the work so that we could prioritize it more effectively.
How did the team respond to these changes?
Many of us came from a traditional IT Operations background, so it required a change of mindset. Around this time, Nigel Dalton joined REA Group as our CIO. Nigel is passionate about applying lean and agile software development techniques to all aspects of business. He really catapulted the initiative forward, placing more emphasis on self-organized teams and individual accountability.
What prompted the need for a Kanban tool?
Physical card walls are a good way to get started, but there are limitations. They’re not easy to modify, requiring a number of re-designs as the process evolves. Plus they’re not portable – when we moved to a different area in the office we had to re-build ours completely. It was also a challenge to communicate information remotely – our team in China introduced webcams, but ultimately this approach was difficult to scale. Our decision to go digital was ultimately prompted by lack of space for physical card walls as REA Group continued to grow.
Why did you select LeanKit?
Simplicity is the nirvana for any successful system rollout, and it was clear that from the start that LeanKit met that criteria.
We were looking for a tool that would enable us to re-create the interactive feel of our physical card walls. Simplicity is the nirvana for any successful system rollout, and it was clear that from the start that LeanKit met that criteria. It was also important to us to find a cloud-based solution to fit with our overall corporate technology strategy.
How easily did the team adapt to using LeanKit?
The reaction was really positive. First, it’s so easy to create digital card walls in LeanKit - we were quickly able to transfer our work from the physical card walls and start using it immediately. We also brought in large 60” touchscreens, which captured people’s attention and interest. It propelled our agile and Lean adoption forward by helping people adapt to the new way of working more easily.
How does your team use LeanKit day-to-day?
At the start of 2014 we introduced a more formal Scrum approach with 2-week iterations. We created a ‘Scrum Card Wall’ board in LeanKit which shows all the work currently in process. We also have a board that we use to capture and prioritize requests. We review and discuss upcoming work during Lean Coffee Meetings.
Early on we integrated LeanKit with our ticketing system, ZenDesk. This enables us to separate break-fix work from enhancement requests. When an enhancement request comes in, the ticket is automatically closed in ZenDesk and a new card is generated in LeanKit. The two systems are very compatible; they both have very intelligent user interfaces and are easy to use.
What improvements have you seen since using LeanKit?
We recently started using the cycle time report in LeanKit to measure the effectiveness of our response time. In the last month alone we’ve improved our cycle time by about 30%, which is impressive given that we’re still getting up to speed with the Scrum process. The ability to instantly see how long a card has been sitting in a lane keeps us accountable and ensures that work flows more efficiently.
Overall we manage our work with more transparency and clarity now. This enables us to prioritize projects based on the business impact and communicate what we’re working on with other teams. With LeanKit we can visualize and organize our incoming work by function and see at a glance what’s in progress, pending, and not started. This makes it easier to articulate our progress with customers more efficiently and report on it as needed.
Do you see opportunity for future improvements?
As we get better at balancing support work with engineering projects we’ll continue to refine our process and reduce the cycle time. We’re redefining our internal Service Level Agreements (SLAs) for different work types at the moment. LeanKit will play an important role in helping us adhere to those SLAs using card types and class of service.
LeanKit is also helping us articulate more clearly how our agile process works, both internally and with our customers. The simple, visual medium that LeanKit provides makes it easier to communicate our priorities throughout the organization which in turn enables more meaningful conversations with our customers.
What other teams in REA Group are using LeanKit?
LeanKit has become an integral part of how we work at REA Group. We currently have about 40 boards created in LeanKit. It’s being used by our HR, legal, procurement, sales and marketing teams to name just a few. It’s particularly useful for cross-functional teams as it provides better work visibility and minimizes hand-off confusion.
Are there any particular examples that standout of how LeanKit is being used?
We’re currently using LeanKit to manage the design and build out of our new head office. It’s a real ‘hats-off’ to LeanKit that we’re using it to manage such a high profile project. There are so many aspects of this project to coordinate and it involves a number of teams including facilities, IT and a third party design company. LeanKit makes it very easy to see what needs to be done, when and by whom. We also add external links within the cards to share key documents and associated information.
What are your future plans for LeanKit?
We’re looking at expanding LeanKit to some of our international offices. For remote teams it’s important to feel in touch with what’s going on and know that requests are being addressed. With LeanKit they’ll be able to refer to the card wall at any time, see the latest work status and know what’s coming next.
We’re also looking at integrating LeanKit with Jive, our social business portal, and Okta.com for single sign on.
Please summarize why you like LeanKit so much.
REA Group is a tech-savvy company and LeanKit complements that approach very well. In particular, we like the mobility that LeanKit gives us – the iPad app is awesome. It’s amazing that you can zoom in and out and get the same clarity as seeing the board on a 60” screen.
Secondly, we like to incorporate fun into what we do. People really enjoy using LeanKit and find it so satisfying to quickly create a card wall and start using it to visualize their work. It’s a fun tool that fits with our corporate culture.
Thanks REA Group, for sharing your story with us!